27-year-old Wisconsin man critically ill with COVID-19 saved thanks to blood pumping machine

Posted at 7:42 AM, Apr 28, 2020

A 27-year-old man from Jackson critically ill with the coronavirus spent days in a ventilator, and his condition showed no sign of improving.

But doctors at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin tried something new - they put him on a machine called ECMO, that pumps the blood while putting oxygen into it - giving his heart and lungs an opportunity to rest. After two weeks in the hospital, the father of three is back home.

The man has no pre-existing conditions and believes he contracted the virus while traveling, a news release says.

"ECMO is proving to be a promising solution when ventilators are not helping COVID-19 patients improve, and we are actually seeing better outcomes for these individuals within 12-24 hours of being placed on ECMO," said Lucian Durham III, MD, PhD, associate professor at MCW and cardiothoracic surgeon at Froedtert & MCW. "Billy's successful outcome truly speaks to the skill and experience of our ECMO team, and to the tremendous collaboration with our community hospitals that enable patients around the region to receive world-class care."

The hospital says the man's case will be used to help other patients around the world.

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